HEATHER PENNELLA • BE INDEPENDENT IN BAKERSFIELD

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Kern County native Heather Pennella has found Bakersfield to be a place to establish an independent and successful life. Read how she’s done this and what her hopes are for the city’s future.


Heather Pennella • Bakersfield College Foundation


I grew up in Lebec, so Kern County is and always has been home for me. I’m a proud BHS Driller and BC alum, and I currently work for the Bakersfield College Foundation in alumni and donor relations.

One of my favorite things about Bakersfield is the people. We have a grit that we should never let go of. I get inspired all the time as I watch how we are becoming more progressive. Through our growth, we’re attracting people here who love this city, and that’s wonderful. And, as a single woman, I love that I can make a living here, buy a home and be comfortable.

We have such spirit in this town. For the last decade or so, I’ve worked in the nonprofit industry both as a volunteer and as an employee, and I’ve found that our community is very generous. We wrap our arms around each other when needed. We take care of one another. We make sure that education is accessible. Our community is full of advocates who step up for others.

That’s one of the great things about Bakersfield — everyone comes together regardless of political views, and we work toward a common goal of caring for our community. One perfect example of this is the Great American Cleanup hosted by Keep Bakersfield Beautiful. I’m currently the chairwoman of Keep Bakersfield Beautiful, and our mission is to engage individuals to take greater responsibility for improving our community. During the cleanup, we rally thousands of Bakersfield residents who all work together to pick up litter, clean up illegal dumps or work in a community garden. It’s a wonderful Saturday of bonding and camaraderie by way of service.  

There are still some challenges to life here, of course. When I started my career, one that I ran into was the “good old boy” mindset. It’s less of an issue now, but, when I was starting my career and making a name for myself, it was difficult at times.

My biggest hope for Bakersfield’s future is that we continue riding this wave of progressiveness. Even as we grow and change, we are remaining true to who we are. We’re becoming more open, and we’re providing opportunities to get involved in the community. Different groups are being represented more vocally — we have our own Women’s March, and the LGBTQ community is growing. At the same time, our country music roots are still strong.

We’re a city of people who care for and support one another. It’s a place where people like me can buy a home and be successful. We can come together on important issues regardless of our political affiliation. We can be who we want to be. I love that we’re making room for all of this in Bakersfield right now.


We can come together on important issues regardless of our political affiliation. We can be who we want to be. I love that we’re making room for all of this in Bakersfield right now.

Be INDEPENDENT in Bakersfield.

The Great American Cleanup, hosted by Keep Bakersfield Beautiful, will be on Saturday, April 6th, 8a.m. - 1p.m. If you would like to be part of a Saturday morning giving back to our city by sponsoring or volunteering, please visit here.


Connect with Heather: Bakersfield College Foundation

Click here to watch Heather’s story firsthand

Be In Bakersfield